Ai Fiori lunch (summary)
Ai Fiori (lunch, 2 course prix fixe + 1 course + dessert. $65/$75) duration: 1 hr
1) Sardines & lemon zest, peeled tomato halves, fried capers •, dehydrated coriander, mystery beige sauce
This was challenging. The individual parts are nice, but for me they added up to be just okay. Not sure which restaurants here can top the sardine course at Chez Panisse, CA.
Bread (butter was notably nice)
2) Veal agnolotti • (braised veal, chives), charred corn •, charred corn purée, veal jus, baby basil leaves
"Very good" level: Al dente, and the filling slightly gushes when you bite. I would rank Lupa's asparagus agnolotti to be better, even though the two have different sensibilities.
3) Scallops, saffron-shellfish sabayon, uova di trota, fried leeks, chopped fennel
Scallops was meh, I've had better dayboat scallops from the supermarket. Very generous on the trout roe, but as a topping it doesn't save the scallops. I have a theory that most typical scallop dishes are really boring, and this one again confirms it.
4) La Religeuse: almond puff pastry, frosting, strawberry cream (creme chantilly)
I'm divided on this one. I would have enjoyed a more substantial dessert, but on the other hand, this is the possibly the epitome of a cream puff. If you don't care for cream puffs, don't order it.
***Recommendations*** Out of these I would suggest the Veal Agnolotti. I would also rather have ordered: Risotto, Crusted Cod, Chocolate creme tart (the waiter recommended all of these dishes except for the sardines). Maybe the grass really is greener on the other side.
I appreciate the finer sophistication of French techniques (don't get me wrong, I am a huge advocate of refinement), but ultimately I preferred what they are doing at: The Modern Bar Room (dinner), Tocqueville (lunch), Aldea (dinner), Momofuku Ssam Bar (dinner). Again, maybe I just picked the wrong dishes—and of course, dinner service would be a wholly separate game.